DOJ: Keeping NICS updated prevents domestic violence homicides

Citing past work and studies, the Justice Department reiterated details from a recent discussion about enforcing existing gun laws to reduce domestic violence homicide.

The Office on Violence Against Women posted a blog post this month summarizing a panel discussion that examined “the intersection” where “the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations significantly increases the risk of homicide” for women and others involved.

The findings, generated in October by a host of participants, showed that a gun increases the risk of homicide for a woman in a domestic violence situation by 40 to 50 percent. “That’s nine times the rate killed by strangers,” the Justice Department says.

According to the Justice Department, part of the solution is ensuring the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has up-to-date records as federal gun dealers use NICS to perform criminal checks on potential buyers.

The rate of domestic violence homicide decreases by 7 to 9 percent in areas where laws prevent domestic abusers from buying guns from a licensed dealer, the Justice Department says.

“The data refute the hypothesis that abusers who want to kill will simply use another weapon if they don’t have a gun. In fact, guns make it more likely that a death will result,” the Justice Department says.

Pro-gun groups have defied efforts to strengthen laws regarding domestic abusers, often arguing that accusations might be false. But they may also stay quiet on issues if the measure include provisions for one who is falsely accused to exonerate him- or herself.

Yet, domestic violence is sometimes an area where gun groups — both pro and anti — can find common ground. While federal gun laws set a standard, including barring those convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence, enforcement is largely left up to the state.

For instance, a new concealed carry law in Missouri allows residents to carry a firearm without a permit. Although the law still prohibits those with domestic abuse convictions from possessing a firearm, state law enforcement lost a tool to screen gun buyers. State lawmakers — along with domestic violence and gun groups — in the upcoming legislative session will look for new options for state law enforcement officers to prevent abusers from obtaining guns.